Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pulling weeds from the flowerbed of faith

A blog is a living thing. This blog will go where I’m going, for good and bad. Some of those who read will be questioning my motives, some will believe I am misled and some will accuse me of misleading others. 

Since I won't be able to change what other people believe about or perceive the reasons I have for writing, these questions will, just like beauty, have to be settled in the eye, or the mind, of the beholder. God won’t judge me according to the verdict passed by mere mortals. He will judge my heart, and God knows, God surely knows that I’m working on that part.

With this said, and before I proceed, I want to share a few words of caution.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:1-5)
The flowerbed analogy

In this post, I will try to explain what I’ve been doing on this blog and also what I will be doing in the near future.

“What is the purpose of your blog?” This question has been posed to me quite a few times. As I’ve thought about it, the image of a flowerbed came to my mind.

Just like you and everyone around us, I have my own flowerbed of faith. I'm responsible for what I plant, grow and what I keep in it. If I want this flowerbed to be prodigious and full of colorful, fragrant and beautiful flowers, I have to keep weeds away.

Weeds come in all kinds of shapes and forms. Some are edible, some are easily mistaken as flowers and still some are obnoxious and won't give up their place in your flowerbed without a fight. Some need to be yanked out by the root while others need less aggressive treatment (just keeping the sun away is sometimes enough). The common denominator for all weeds is that they are not flowers and at one time or another, they will need our attention.

Knowledge and Moroni’s invitation

Joseph Smith said that, “three things are necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, The idea that he actually exists. Secondly, A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes. Thirdly, An actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing, is according to his will.—For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Emphasis in the original.)

Joseph also said that “knowledge saves a man” (TPJS p. 357) and “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge.” In D&C 131:6, we read that ”it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” Correct knowledge and correct ideas, and beliefs I would add, about God is necessary for faith in God unto life and salvation. I don’t know about you, but I want all of it–faith, life, salvation and knowledge.

Not everything we have been taught and believe is true. How can we know that something is true? Moroni wrote that “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5) This isn’t just a one-time invitation, but a lifestyle. We should strive to have everything we believe and everything we claim to know verified by the Holy Ghost. I can honestly say that this is something that I have to repent to. I don’t do this. If you do, then please comment and share your experiences. This is a tough way to live, for it requires constant vigilance and a great and strong and firm connection with the heavens. It requires humility and faith and a non-judgmental frame of mind. All of which is hard for fallen man.

It’s a lot easier to take the all or nothing approach suggested by president Hinckley. It doesn’t require nearly as much effort, thought, prayer or humility. The problem is that this approach is false and it reduces the role of the Holy Ghost while it builds on assumptions and traditions. Moroni invited me to verify all truth, not because it's a great concept, but because I need to do it for otherwise I won’t receive knowledge. (Check out my post - "All or nothing - a false approach to the Church" for more on this strain of thought.)

Different kinds of weed

Untruths, incorrect ideas, faulty concepts, disobedience, traditions of our fathers are some of the weeds in my flowerbed. If I would’ve been born in the 1880’s, polygamy (a practice based on a lack of understanding; earlier a requirement for exaltation but now grounds for excommunication) and a racist priesthood ban for black med of African descent (a doctrine purportedly from God; now disavowed  and ”unequivocally condemned”) would have been two big pieces of weed. In hindsight, I guess most people can understand why I call these ’doctrines’ weed. Thankfully, you might say, this isn’t 1880. You’re right, it isn’t. But do you really believe things have changed that much? I mean, fallen man is still leading this work on earth and man's inability to preserve truth without contaminating it hasn’t improved dramatically.

There's nothing that proves that we're not being taught untruths for truths. The Book of Mormon suggest that it’s happening.
”They have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” 2 Ne 28:14
This verse speaks of the gentile churches of our day, of which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one. This should cause us to “awaken to a sense of our awful situation” (Ether 8:24) and start working to recognize the precepts of men being taught us.

The weeds of untruth, incorrect ideas, faulty concepts, disobedience, precepts of men, scriptures mingled with the philosophies of men and traditions of our fathers hinder the flowers from growing and pose a constant threat to choke them, and they me from planting new flowers of truth. I need to pull them out. And that’s what this blog has been about.

Some might say I'm too negative, but anyone who has been involved in pulling weeds knows that this is necessary in order to give real flowers a better chance to grow, and also to plant new ones. Only a gardener without the slightest sense of gardening will cultivate the soil and plant flowers before removing hindering elements. For the flowers of faith and a divine character, this is especially true. If the Lord one day is going to separate the wheat from the tares, I guess that we must do it within ourselves as a preparation.

If you feel that I’m in the wrong on this one, it’s ok. I won’t bash your conviction. My problem (or, blessing perhaps) is that I don't have that conviction. And in my world, that’s the conviction compatible with the scriptures.

What will happen from now on?

This quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith (numbers added) will be my main focus.
"The other Comforter spoken of is a subject of great interest, and perhaps understood by few of this generation. After a person has faith in Christ (1), repents of his sins (2), and is baptized for the remission of his sins (3) and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter (4), then let him continue to humble himself before God (5), hungering and thirsting after righteousness (6), and living by every word of God (7), and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards (8), then the man will find his calling and his election made sure (9), then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints. [This other Comforter is no more nor less] than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time (10), and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him (11), and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him, (12) and the Lord will teach him face to face (13), and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God (14); and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions—Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn (15)." (TPJS p. 150-151)
This is the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s beautiful. It’s the essence of the restoration (which we all should be reclaiming). This encompasses the hopes I have for my spiritual journey and it outlines the steps on the ladder we all must climb.
“When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”

We need to climb this ladder, and I will dedicate the coming posts to, what I call, “15 steps to the Church of the Firstborn.” Next post – Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Stay tuned.

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